Last week’s gathering of tens of thousands of Americans from across the nation in support of President Trump which led to a massive march on the Capitol building and a serious breach of security has been reported as if it were an attack on the Capitol building itself. True enough, artifacts, equipment, and furnishings were trashed. Some of the agitated intruders penetrated the Senate chamber and approvingly sat in the chair reserved for its presiding officer, Vice-President Michael Pence. Efforts to break into the House chamber failed, but in the hallway just outside that chamber one of the intruders was shot and killed by Capitol security. The office of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s was forced open and trashed.
To assure the safety of the members of Congress and their staff Capitol security personnel escorted them out of the building through the tunnel system. Though many were frightened there have been no reports that any one of them was physically assaulted and injured by an intruder. No fires were set in the building, no American flags were burned, and none of the intruders exited the building with arm loads of loot. Outside, no police cars were smashed and set ablaze.
When an adult male becomes agitated because he is unable to cope with a situation he frequently expresses his anger by slamming his fist or foot into something physical like a wall or bashing the wall with a hammer or baseball bat or throwing and breaking something like a chair or cell-phone. His frustration is not with the wall or chair or cell-phone. It’s with a situation involving someone else like a boss or neighbor or family member who has done or said something that triggered his anger which he directed not to a specific person but to a physical object.
Overwhelmingly it was adult men who filled the ranks of the agitated intruders and took out their anger on the Capitol building itself when in fact they are angry with their representatives in Congress who are not doing their jobs. Some of them were older men. Even so, they did not take up firearms as happened in June 2017 when Louisiana Congressman Scalise was fired on and seriously wounded preparing for a friendly Congressional baseball game.
Why then were the intruders so angry? They are frustrated with a Congress that delayed passage of another round of needed relief for persons and businesses impacted by the pandemic until after the November election so that no one, especially President Trump, could claim credit for it and influence the outcome of that election. They are aggravated by members of Congress who insist that everyone else has to comply with the restrictions advised by public health officials when they themselves fail to comply whenever they think no one is watching. They are incensed by the personal attacks both political parties launch against one another and therefore cannot come to agreement on the public’s business. C-Span and cable news channels give them a direct look into proceedings on the floor of the House and Senate and in committee meetings. The meanness exhibited by both sides of the aisle is on full display.
At the moment they are angry because only a few in Congress and no one on the U.S. Supreme Court have insisted that without independent audits there is no way to know for sure that the books kept by the states on the presidential election were not cooked.
As supporters of President Trump the agitators are fed up with the nonstop charges made against him from the beginning. Reliable newspaper sources reported that Democrats and federal employees initiated a resistance movement on the very day he was inaugurated. At the same time, calls were being made for his impeachment. Many Democrat lawmakers openly stated they would not attend Trump’s inauguration. Three years later Speaker of the House Pelosi at the conclusion of his State of the Union address stood up and tore up her copy knowing her gesture of contempt would be shown on national television.
President Trump was wrongly accused of conspiring with the Russians to deny Hillary Clinton the White House she and her supporters fully expected to take control of after the 2016 election. He was charged with xenophobia for banning Chinese travelers, as potential carriers of Covid-19, from entering the U.S. at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. He was attacked for backing the sovereignty of the Israeli nation by members of Congress who expressed their own support for the Palestinian leadership who for years have denied the statehood rights of the Israeli people. He was indicted by the House of Representatives on the basis of a phone call to the president of the Ukraine but cleared of those claims by the Senate. He has been harassed for insisting that undocumented immigrants have no right to remain in the United States and that a wall along our southern border was needed to enforce that policy. He was accused of insulting our NATO partners, engaging in gunboat diplomacy in the Persian Gulf, and entering into potentially dangerous liaisons with Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-Un. His efforts to re-balance the trading relationship with China were assailed as undermining free trade and its many benefits to the United States.
Trump’s supporters are not the only ones who disapprove of the way that the men and women of Congress manage the nation’s business. According to Gallup in December only 15 percent of Americans approve of the way Congress is handling its job. If members of Congress think that reinforced security around the Capitol building will keep intruders from breaking in, they probably are right. If they think that the frustration of Trump’s supporters will melt away when they prosecute the intruders, they are terribly mistaken.
The problem for our representatives in Washington no longer is with Trump. It’s with the millions of ordinary Americans, many of whom voted for him, who will not shut up, be quiet, and do what they’re told. A Congress that works for all Americans is what they want, not one for which the “inclusiveness” of the new administration in Washington marginalizes them and leaves them with no seat at the table.
The attack last week on Congress is indefensible. However, you don’t have to tell the 74 million Americans who voted for Trump and the 85 percent who do not approve of the way Congress manages its business that threatening to impeach him and forcibly remove him from office is no way to begin unifying the country.
Edward J. O’Boyle can be reached at 381-4002 or firstname.lastname@example.org.